Can Austin end youth homelessness by December? A local nonprofit’s working to do it

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — LifeWorks continues their fight to end youth homelessness in Austin this year with a brand-new affordable housing facility for young people and families.

The Works II is a 29-unit building in east Austin, adjacent to their existing facility. The grand opening is January 21.

There are two bedroom, one bedroom and efficiency units to fit the needs of each individual client. Their stay can range from one to two years, or even longer if that’s what they need to get on their feet.

“When we have youth coming right off the street and into an apartment, this could be their very first home,” Hanckel said. “To see our clients and youth walk in and burst out into these big smiles and their eyes well up with tears, it is such a heartwarming moment.”

A first look at an affordable housing unit at LifeWorks’ new building, the Works II.

With each unit, a step closer to their goal

In November 2019, residents began moving in to the Works II, and the building is currently at 72% capacity.

“That may not seem like a lot. It may seem like a very small number given the work that we have to do,” said LifeWorks Director of Communications and Marketing Julianne Hanckel. “But as we continue to move forward, and we continue to spread awareness, we really want to create that feeling that this is achievable.”

The Works II building in East Austin (KXAN/Avery Travis)

The goal they’re hoping to achieve: becoming the first major city in the U.S. to end youth homelessness by December 2020.

MORE DETAILS: Austin aims to be first U.S. city to end youth homelessness

They base their success off the government definition for “functional zero.” That means the number of young people entering homelessness is equal to the number of young people who are being housed.

Hanckel said right now, LifeWorks has identified 450 youth, aged 18-24, in need.

How to achieve their goal?

Hanckel said they are “on track,” but there’s an exact dollar amount they need to achieve “functional zero”: $4.9 million.

“We’ve spent years trying to pinpoint the amount needed financially to scale our programs, hire the staff and address the numbers of who are in need of the most immediate services,” Hanckel said.

The money will be used for not only housing and shelter, but programs to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring for these youth.

“That means we address their homelessness and then exit them from it in 30-45 days,” Hanckel said.

LifeWorks will also partner with other groups to get young people jobs, a GED, or counseling, enabling them to keep a roof over their head.

“This is a solvable problem,” she said.

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